Beautiful Examples of a Proverbs 31 Wife {Emilie Barnes}

I used to be petrified of the Proverbs 31 wife. She seemed unattainable, perfect and all her strengths seemed to be every single one of my major faults. I was jealous of her and disliked the way I felt when I read about her, yet desired to be her above all things. I was first introduced to her in my first year of marriage as a young, very insecure wife. Seven years later, she’s not so frightening anymore. Why? Because I have met and read about many Proverbs 31 wives, and do you know what? None of them are alike. Yet I would describe all of them under this beautiful banner.
I thought I might start a casual series to encourage women who, like me, are or have been frightened of this {not real} woman. It’s my hope to share stories or examples of women who have been “praised at the gates”{vs 28} by their husbands, children or other loved ones to show that God has made us all uniquely different and beautiful for the love and service of our families. Then maybe, just a little bit, this Proverbs 31 woman may not seem as elusive and unattainable as I thought she was.

Emilie Barnes
“For 42 years I have been married to a woman who has truly stood by me. Emilie has shown me the patience of Job, the wisdom of Solomon, the forgiveness of Jesus, and the straightforwardness of Paul in her relationship to me. A very capable person in her own right and busy with her own areas of ministry, Emilie has always worked toward the long-term goal of helping me become the man God wants me to be.

Emilie has loved, encouraged, challenged, motivated, inspired and supported me in every endeavor. She has stood by me, backing my ideas and my leadership even when she has had some doubts. When I have been wrong, Emilie has offered encouragement rather than chastisement, scolding, ‘I told you so,’ or the silent treatment. All through our years of marriage, I have been strengthened by her unwavering respect for me.

Through the years, Emilie’s prayers have also placed a protective hedge around my heart. Knowing that she would be in prayer for me has helped protect me from feelings of anger, resentment, defeat, or egotism. Whenever I was away from the family at a convention, I knew Emilie was praying for my safety, purity and obedience to God’s Word, and protection from Satan’s attacks. Also, being so in tune with God and me, Emilie – like many intuitive wives – has often been aware of my needs before I’ve been aware of them myself. Finally, as a woman of prayer, Emilie is someone I can turn to with every decision that needs to be made, confident that her perspective will be godly and wise.

Emilie has also made me a hero to our children and grandchildren… She has always made it a priority to teach them to support my leadership, appreciate me in word and deed, and respectfully acknowledge my role in the family. Just as Emilie has taught me what a gift a godly wife can be, she  can undoubtedly teach you as I share from my experience as her husband.”
~ extract from Bob Barnes’ book, What Makes a Man Feel Loved? Understanding What Your Man Really Wants
***
Don’t forget, dear friends, that neither Emilie nor Bob have had the perfect marriage. Over four decades of living with a sinful person undoubtedly had it’s valley’s and heartache. But, they have obviously persevered, stayed committed and pursued God’s desire for the roles of men and women in marriage. This testimony of Emilie’s love, intuitive care and service speaks wonders. It encourages me and convicts me to honour and esteem my husband as faithfully as Emilie has done.
“However, let each man of you [without exception] love his wife [being in a sense] his very own self; and let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband [that she notices him, regards him, honours him, prefers him, venerates, and esteems him; and that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly.”

Ephesians 5:33
I just love this Amplified version of this verse, how detailed it fleshes out this verse, don’t you?

Making Home the Anchor of Family Life {And the Struggle to Do So}.

As I am growing as a wife and mother, my conviction that our home is the anchor-point of our family’s life deepens. This is from my own broken background, my search of the Scriptures and just a sense that, in this busy-busy society, children need a safe haven, a place where they feel completely safe, sheltered and able to grow at their own pace and in their own interests. 
Yet, despite conviction, it’s not always easy maintaining the majority of our time at home.

The Pull Outwards

There are always errands to run, shopping to be done, church commitments to keep, friendships to grow and interaction with other peers for the children. There always seems to be something that needs to draw me out of the home. Most of the time, these are necessary things but, sometimes, I feel the pressure to be part of outside groups. Bible studies, play groups, music groups, library groups, coffee groups. There seems to be groups for all kinds of aspects of a wife and mother’s life, and that there is an unspoken expectation that a Christian wife must be a apart of all of them – not just for her, but for the “socialisation” of children.
There are some days too, where my spirit is just restless. I’ve been home too much or have been out too much, and something in me feels itchy. When I’m like that, I’m more likely to drag the kids around, spend money on things we don’t really need, get behind on chores. This is a struggle for me and it’s something I’ve been more conscious of recently and which I am working on, through God’s strength and grace.

Looking Well?

Recently, the Lord has been laying on my heart this verse from the Proverb 31 woman:
“She looks well to the ways of her household,
and doesn’t eat the bread of idleness.” {vs 27}
Now that I am getting full night sleep {praise the Lord for that!} and I am clearer-headed, more energised and more emotionally stable, it’s time for me to move back into intentionality in the home. When you have a newborn or children not sleeping well, it’s all about survival and doing what works. But there comes a time where there really is no excuse to be made when it comes to how I am looking to the ways of my household. That time has come for me.
It’s not that I won’t have days where things just need to go with the flow. That’s called life and it is also called grace. But God asks of all wives and mothers to look well to the ways of her home, to be careful as to what is good for them, what edifies them body, mind and soul.

How to Stay Home

Keeping guard over the home is one of those ways she can look well to her family. This is looking at her family’s week and being intentional – almost mathematical – over the times and days of her family. She needs to say yes to some things and no to others. And she doesn’t need to feel guilty or embarrassed about this. I do struggle with this and it is something I need to bring to the Lord. My family are my number one ministry, all things come last. If saying no to certain things is what is needed, then it is good for me to say no without any qualms.
Currently, we are part of no groups {though this is only a recent thing}. Each day I have the freedom to choose how we spend our days. This week we went out for a small time each morning and then spent most of the day at home. I did many meals in the slow cooker so that the dinnertime craziness was lessened. It was much more relaxing for Tim when he came home from work to have me helping with all the tears and cuddles that come in that hour before dinner time {oh, that hour!}.
So my conviction is strong, but sometimes I am weak. By God’s grace, I know that I can keep working on what he has laid on my heart and not condemn myself for on days or weeks that I let my restlessness rule, or my fear of man, or allowing too much into our schedule. Quietly, purposefully and with heart, I keep seeking to anchor our family into our home, the way I can best look well to our home life.

Daring to Live a Quiet Life: Obscurity, Contentment and Simple Living.

“When we read the life of the saints, we are struck by a certain large leisure which went hand in hand with remarkable effectiveness. They were never hurried; they did comparatively few things, and these not necessarily striking or important; and they troubled very little about their influence. Yet they always seemed to hit the mark…”

~ Brigid Herman, wife of a minister, turn of the twentieth century

I’ve always had the desire to live a different life. In fact, I have always felt different from other people. As a child, I preferred to sit in my room writing stories for the entire weekend and as a teenager, I preferred reading. My other friends were at the mall, playing sports or going to parties. I preferred peaceful solitude, a heart seeking depth, country-living, books devoted to the pursuit of God, deep conversations with my father and other pursuits. When Tim and I married and I finished university {something I chose to do for personal growth rather than career}, I only ever worked part-time. Caring for him and growing as a wife and homemaker were deeply important to me. Friends asked how many hours I worked and how I spent my days, and I felt embarrassed but deeply convicted that God had led me to do the right thing for our marriage. Even now, despite my children being so little, people have asked me what I will do when my children go to school, and I reply “Stay home” even though in my heart, I hope to home educate them.
This has a lot to do with my background. My parents always taught me to think objectively about life. When I got bullied, they helped me look at the heart of the children hurting me and how they might be hurting to make them hurt others. We would discuss current events and have intellectual discussions. Dad would push me to read deeper books than The Baby-Sitters Club from our incredibly large library {of over five thousand books – he was a professor in children’s literature, so go figure}. But more than all that, when my parents separated and I lived between houses in a suitcase from fifteen-years-old and made poor choices for my spirit, when God permanently drew me to him and I repented, broken and really hurting, he placed a deep longing in me for marriage, service, children and home. Stability, quietness, faithfulness, love.
I have never wanted career. I have never wanted busy. I have never wanted to join in with what the world is doing, even if I struggle sometimes with their idea of beauty and success and wealth. Just like the faith that was an anchored little fire burning in my heart from as early as I can remember, God has kept in me a surety that for my family, home and stability is my purpose for them. I need to show them that they are my ministry, they are more important than any pursuit that I could quite willingly choose. Having known the hurt of feeling like career is more important than me as a child, I don’t want that for my children and neither do I want my husband not to know, from daily-living truth, that our marriage is first. It’s not that I neglect the things that make my soul burn with joy and passion {hence, my blog for writing} but I know that a life of service for others is a true life of fulfillment.

Living against the grain is biblical, but not always prescriptive. I’m not saying that all Christians should pursue background living and that if they don’t, they’re disobeying God. God calls people to live in all areas of life for his glory and for his purposes. I personally believe, after much heart-seeking and Bible reading, that for mothers especially, simple, quiet living for the sake of the family is a rare but blessed thing. Rushed, frantic living does not benefit a child’s mind, heart and body. I am testament to this, it increased my anxiety and insecurity, things I still struggle with to this day.

 

Gone are the days where time can be taken slowly but effectively. It’s all about maximising the minutes with equal output now. And though God asks us to “number our days” {Psalm 92:12}, this is not always to be taken literally: rather, it’s about understanding our days are limited so live them fully for his glory in worship and service of him. When we learn to live this way, we “gain a heart of wisdom”. Wisdom living, it seems, is to “aspire to live a quiet life, attend to your own life and work with your hands” {1 Thessalonians 4:11}. The Amplified version of the Bible expands it this way:

 

“Make it your ambition and definitely endevour to live quietly and peacefully. to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands…so that you bear yourself becomingly and be correct and honourable and command the respect of the outside world…”

This is what Brigid Herman meant in the quote at the start where she said the saints of old “hit the mark”: they didn’t seek praise, popularity and acknowledgement; instead they quietly worked at their own lives and were consequently {by God’s will} productive in their kingdom work. She goes on to say:

 

“They were as free from self-regard as from slavery to the good opinions of others. God saw and God rewarded; what else needed they? They possessed God and themselves in God. Hence the inalienable dignity of these meek, quiet figures that seem to produce such marvelous effects with such humble materials.”

 

I cannot say that I am free from self-regard nor that I don’t struggle with wondering what people think of me. Blogging tempts the inner desire to be well-known immensely and it is a constant fine line of seeking God’s way for me and checking my heart for motives and intentions. Removing myself from Facebook has opened up a freedom from this enticement and I have not regretted it. It has been one step for me to making a quiet life my ambition. I don’t want to be afraid of being “unknown” in our “must be known” world of social media, instant news and how many likes we have. Seeking a quiet life of obscurity means knowing God sees and God rewards, and that is more than enough. It is plenty.

 

And every now and then, I am blessed beyond measure when my husband says from the comfort of our living room as I wash dishes, “Thank you for making a great home for us”. That is a joy to hear and would not be true if quiet living were not my aim.